“The Shadow of Your Smile”, performed by an amazing group of Filipino musicians, set the tone for my first visit to The Ruins, and the lyrics and images were stuck in my head for days. Sometimes referred to as “The Taj Mahal of Negros”, the majestic Ruins bathed in glowing lights are simply stunning – a must-see on the Philippine island of Negros.
It’s easy to see why The Ruins were named one of
The Ruins began as an elaborate and elegant mansion built by Filipino sugar baron, Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, as a token of his eternal love for his wife Maria.
Don met the beautiful, young Maria on a trip to Macau and fell madly in love with her. They had ten children and were excited about the arrival of their 11th. Sadly, shortly before the birth of number eleven, Maria slipped in the bathroom and began to bleed. In 1911 travel was very difficult in the area and it took the doctor two days to get to Maria. By the time he arrived, both Maria and the baby were gone.
Don slipped into a deep depression after the death of his beloved Maria and began plans to construct an elaborate mansion for his children and future generations of grandchildren. The project became his therapy, a token of his undying love for Maria, and he put his heart and soul into the mansion’s design. Maria’s father, a sea captain, supported his efforts and helped in the shipment of beautiful furnishings from Europe and construction workers from China.
Three years later, construction of the mansion was finally complete. The frame was thick concrete and was covered by beautiful, very thick hardwood. Inscribed into the concrete were two “M’s” facing each other – a symbol of everlasting love between Mariano and Maria.
And then WWII broke out and the Japanese controlled the island of Negros. US forces were instructed to destroy any structures that may house the enemy, including the mansion. At the time only two of the couple’s ten children still remained in the house, according to our tour guide, Artie, “…a bachelor and a spinster“. Don and his children fled the mansion as it burned, leaving everything behind.
Since it was built with hardwood it burned slowly and took three days to burn down, leaving the thick concrete structure still standing. A week later the smoldering finally stopped and the ruins were abandoned and forgotten for decades, overtaken by plants and animals.
Years later, descendants of the family held a lottery to divide the 440-hectare sugar cane plantation. Raymund Javellana “won” the section of land with the ruins of the old house, basically useless land in this sugar cane growing area where farmland was valued.
We had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Javellana and hear his personal stories of restoring the mansion and his visions for the future.
Mr. Javellana recounted the beginning of his love-hate relationship with the mansion ruins, sharing that he initially planted sugar cane up to the edges of the house which, he said, had been overtaken by the jungle and “resembled Cambodia’s Angkor Wat”. Then he evicted the goats who had taken up residence, rented a power washer and set to cleaning and restoring this relic.
In January, 2008 he opened The Ruins to the public. Business was initially slow since it was difficult to get there on the narrow, unpaved country roads. There were no lights so he closed at 6 pm. Then a local movie producer came calling and used the house as a film location. With the profits from the movie shoot he outfitted the house with lighting, manicured the lawn, and restored the old fountain.
Many happy couples have reportedly met at that old fountain and later married. According to Mr. Javellana, one couple met by the fountain three years ago and are set to be married soon…on the manicured grounds of The Ruins. His son also met his wife near the magical old fountain.
Mr. Javellana’s vision includes the addition of a small wedding chapel and a bed and breakfast, giving in to the romantic air of the old mansion. Plans are also underway to cover the house with a roof, allowing him to create a museum displaying the artifacts of this romantic and intriguing family history…
And the music plays on, serenading visitors and encouraging people to linger near the fountain while listening to the hauntingly beautiful sounds of “The Shadow of Your Smile”. Searching for their soul mate maybe?
From Bacolod: 15-20 minute taxi ride
From Bacolod: Love Cab Shuttle departs regularly from Go Hotel in Bacolod City
From Silay Airport: 10-15 minute taxi ride
(Tour provided compliments of Tourism Promotions Board Philippines and It’s More Fun in the Philippines. All thoughts, opinions, and memories are strictly my own.)